It had been my goal for a while to write about being a “working mom” for this blog. I use quotes because, of course, the phrase “working mom” is redundant. What Mom doesn’t work – either as a stay-at-home mom or not?! But, I digress. One topic that is constantly discussed in mom groups and blogs all over is the concept of “Mom Guilt.” Moms who go back to work outside of the home express feeling guilty about everything and it is pervasive:
“I feel guilty for leaving my baby at daycare.”
“I feel guilty for leaving my baby with the nanny.”
“What kind of mother doesn’t spend every moment with her baby?”
“How can I value my career over my baby?”
This concept is discussed so much that I just assumed that I would feel guilty when I went back to work after having my son. I’ll save you the suspense: I DIDN’T.
Leading up to the first day, I had plenty of anxiety about my son starting daycare. It’s a big transition. However, I knew he was going to a safe place with people that knew what they were doing. My days at home were also getting long. I loved snuggling with my baby, but as many of you reading this know, those days are long and hard…and sometimes quite boring.
When I dropped my son off at daycare that first morning, along with my husband (who is actually in charge of daycare drop-off), I knew I would miss him, but I also had this sense of being free. I thought I would cry and have some real trouble making it through the day. It was just not the case. I was so excited to pick-up my son that evening, nurse and snuggle the rest of the night. This pattern continued. I just never felt guilty.
I started thinking to myself and remarking to others: Is this normal? Should I have some more feelings about this? In other words, I started to feel guilty about not feeling guilty! My mother (who always has a word) told me that there is certainly no mandate to feel guilty, but only that I am always doing my best.
That’s when I realized that this is all about me – and all other mothers in the workforce or not – knowing that we are always enough for our children. We are fiercely dedicated to them even when we are not physically present. We are always thinking of them, working for them and doing everything in our power to provide them with the life we think they should have. It is my view that there is simply no room for guilt when we know this is true.
I am sharing this with all of you because this viewpoint is often missing in the larger discussion of going back to work. I think many mothers may be embarrassed or ashamed to share they do not feel guilty. I’m here to say it’s OK and it does not mean that you love your baby any less.
I also want to make clear that this does not mean that it is an easy transition. Becoming a mom is a transformative experience that presents many tough moments – returning to work is one of many.
You are also not valuing your career over your baby. They are not in competition. Quite frankly, a day in the office gives me a much needed mental break from my very active son (who is now a toddler). I get to flex different parts of my brain, talk to adults, go to the bathroom by myself and drink hot coffee!!! Then when I’m with him I am all in.
I implore all of us to let go of, or not even get started with, that destructive Mom Guilt. We are always enough.
Also, here are some great books that discuss managing life as a busy parent while working!